WASHINGTON ― U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to increase defense spending by “billions of dollars,” while hinting that a plan to increase spending on missile defense may come as soon as next week.
Speaking to reporters Thursday while in New Jersey, Trump said: “We are going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea, and other reasons having to do with the anti-missile. We are going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars,” adding that “we’ll probably be able to report that over the next week.”
“We are going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars,” he added.
Just what that means is unclear, although it is possible the White House will submit a proposal for consideration to Congress for the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
While the House has already completed its version of the NDAA, the Senate intends to take it up come September, with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., having pledged a number of new amendments.
However, any increase in the defense budget may meet a challenge on Capitol Hill, which already must overcome the budget caps enforced by the Budget Control Act.
Both the House and Senate defense committees have already laid out plans requesting more money than the White House did for defense spending. Each of the chambers plussed up the money for missile defense.
When talking about missile defense, Trump cited that “we reduced it by 5 percent, but I’ve decided I don’t want that,” which may be a reference to a roughly 4 percent decrease in funding for the Missile Defense Agency from FY17 levels.
Any increase in missile defense spending would come before the conclusion of the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense review, which is currently ongoing.
The president also repeated his claim, made via Twitter on Wednesday, that America’s nuclear capabilities had been improved since he took office in January.
That statement was widely debunked by experts, who cite the fact any change in nuclear capabilities would require years, not months, and that any improvements that are ongoing were already underway during the Obama administration.
Asked directly how he had improved the nuclear forces, Trump replied: “We’ve done a lot of modernization, but we’ve done a lot of renovation, and we have it now in very good shape, and it will be in much better shape over the next six months to a year.
“My first order was: We have to do the military, but before we do the military per se, we are going to do the nuclear.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.